Watch: Biden Judicial Nominee Can't Answer Simple Yes-or-No Question About Social Justice
How many ways can you avoid answering a yes-or-no question during a judicial hearing? At least eight, in the case of Anne Traum.
Traum, a law professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, is President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the U.S. District Judge for the District of Nevada, according to Ballotpedia. Such a nomination would ordinarily fly under the radar, but she managed to go viral in a bad way after a curious back-and-forth with Louisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy during her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
It’s worth noting that what you’re about to see is the kind of judge Biden and the Democrats believe is eminently qualified to sit on the bench — and one that, if they had their way, they’d be packing the courts with. We believe in fighting court-packing and judicial activism here at The Western Journal, and we’ll call it out when we see it. You can help us by subscribing.
During the Thursday hearing, Kennedy lobbed her a question about whether criminal justice ought to be subordinate to social justice.
“Do you think we should forgive criminal misbehavior in the name of social justice?” Kennedy asked.
That’s a yes or no question, right? One can expound on their answer beyond that — but fundamentally, the answer is binary, even if the reasons behind it aren’t. All one has to do is answer in the affirmative or negative.
That’s not, you may not be surprised to learn, what Traum did.
“Senator, thank you for that question. I recognize that all issues of crime and all responses to crime are fundamentally policy issues,” she began.
“So, those are important issues, they are important for our community and our nation, but I leave those policy issues to the policymakers; if confirmed as a judge I would not be a policy maker.”
“I’m not asking your opinion as a judge. I’m asking your opinion as a person, as a law professor,” Kennedy responded.
“I’ll stipulate, with all of you, that you’re all going to be fair and unbiased. … Now, do you think misbehavior and illegal acts should be forgiven in the name of social justice?”
“Senator, I do believe that all criminal policy is fundamentally a policy issue–” Traum continued before Kennedy cut her off.
“But do you think — as a person, as a professor — that an illegal act should be forgiven in the name of social justice?” Kennedy said.
We’re now on iteration number three and no closer to a yes or a no. (Kennedy, it’s worth noting, was a lawyer by profession before he entered politics — and it shows, even if all he had to do was keep asking the same question in slightly different forms.)
This time we got something closer to a substantive answer, even if it still wasn’t an answer to the question: “Senator, that is not a view that I have taken in my work,” Traum said.
“That’s no? Is your answer no?” Kennedy responded.
A pause. “Senator, in my work, I have not taken that view, and in my understanding–“
“I’m asking, professor, what you believe. I think this is really straightforward,” Kennedy said. “You’re a professor. Do you believe that an illegal act should be forgiven in the name of social justice? It’s pretty simple.”
“So senator, I believe that we have criminal laws, criminal laws that are created by policy-making bodies like this one –” Traum continued.
“I got all that,” Kennedy interjected, before asking her again whether a crime should be excused for reasons of social justice.
Think we’re any closer to an answer? Traum had not yet begun to evade.
“We have not only criminal laws but we have a criminal process by which people come before the court to be held accountable if they are charged with a crime,” she said. “And I have enormous respect for that process.”
“I do too,” Kennedy shot back before reiterating: “Do you believe that a criminal act should be forgiven in the name of social justice?”
No answer. Instead, she believes “when people come before the court, if they are charged with a crime, that is a highly individualized and fact-specific process for all who are involved, and I respect that process.”
“And I respect the heck out of it,” Kennedy said. Then he again asked whether a criminal act should be forgiven in the name of social justice.
“I don’t think I could say, with respect to any particular case or as a generality with respect to any category of cases–” Traum said.
“Do you not have an opinion?” Kennedy asked.
“I don’t have a view to share on how any particular kind of case should be handled,” Traum said.
“If you’re confirmed you’re going to be a federal judge. And I join my friend, Sen. [Richard Durbin, Democrat Senate majority whip from Illinois], in saying judicial temperament is important. But I think being unbiased is even more important,” Kennedy said. “And I find it incredible that you won’t answer my question.”
“So I’m going to ask it again, maybe it’s me,” Kennedy said. “Do you believe that we should forgive a criminal act in the name of social justice?”
“Senator, I share the view that we should be unbiased, but I also share the view that our criminal justice system and our process is very individualized so what should happen in any particular case is a matter of the process and the very specific facts, and that–” Traum responded.
Then came another round of the questioning, followed by this question from Kennedy: “What’s your favorite color?”
“Blue,” Traum responded.
“Thank you,” Kennedy said. “I got one. I’m one for about 20.”
This wasn’t just a funny viral clip — although, if it were, it would be good for a laugh. This should be an easy question for anyone looking for a federal judgeship. Not only was it seemingly impossible for Traum to commit to an answer to Sen. Kennedy’s question, the transcript reads like a script for a comedy show.
Kennedy may have impressed the point upon anyone who stumbled across the clip by asking the question nine times, but it should be obvious that if a nominee’s answer to the question isn’t immediately a no, then it’s a yes — disturbing, given that this woman could be a federal judge.
Her favorite color took just one word, after all. No long spiel about how different situations call for different colors or how, in the course of her work life, she’s always found a way to incorporate blue into the mix. One word: “Blue.” Whether criminal justice should be subordinate to social justice, however, was a different story.
“I can’t vote for you, not if you’re not going to answer the questions,” Kennedy said as he concluded his questioning. “I mean, that was embarrassing.”
Embarrassing, yes. Surprising, no.
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